Jerusalem, for me, was like a place you only read about. Not a place you actually go. So waking up the next morning and actually realizing I was in Jerusalem and I was walking the steps of the Bible was surreal. Not only this, but to be in this country and this city where so many people believe to be the holiest place on earth was incredible.
We met up with D and A this morning and also with our other CS friend and wandered around the old city of Jerusalem all day. We saw as much as we could since we don’t have a lot of time here. Starting with the old city, the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Church of the Redeemer, Tower of David, Tomb of David, Dome of the Rock, Mary’s tomb, Basilica of Agony, Garden of Gethsemane, Mount of Olives and the old city souq. It was interesting, unreal, and extraordinary. It was as if the Bible was unfolding in front of me.
Jerusalem has many many sad stories too. The city has been, like the rest of Israel and Palestine, in constant turmoil. You have consistent reminders of this; armored soldiers, UN vehicles, the wall, and the checkpoints (to name a few). All are reminders that this city, although for a tourist is interesting and enjoyable, is a city that will most likely never be in peace, nor will it’s inhabitants ever be. It’s sad really and as I get talking to the man in the stall I am buying a scarf from I realize that he is Palestinian and he has a special permit to come in to Jerusalem everyday and work. He says to me, ‘but this is where I was born… why I cannot stay here?’ I give him a blank stare. It’s one of the many Palestinians in the next few days that I will have the opportunity to meet and they all ask me the same thing…
It’s a difficult country to be a tourist in. I suppose some tourist just blank out these problems and just see Jerusalem as a ‘cool’ city to visit and party and have a good time, while seeing a synagogue or church or mosque on the way. However, for me I like to see and feel more than a tourist to actually be with the people that live in the place that I am visiting and to understand them. It is quite difficult to do this here. It gets very complicated. It’s easy however to try and avoid these things and then again it’s easy to get wrapped up in these problems. Maybe I am rambling, but I hope that you understand all I want to say is that Jerusalem is whatever you make it to be (like everything in life).
I really enjoyed Jerusalem, the food was incredible (best bagels and falafel!). The city is fascinating and beautiful. The people are interesting, earnest, and heartfelt. In general, it is like a European city, very modern and western, with malls and fast-food, fast cars and lots of money. I suppose Israel is a very wealthy country so why shouldn’t it be like this! I am happy I came here as my first stop in Israel it opened my eyes and I’m excited to discover more about this beautiful and troubled country.
D and A agreed to rent a car with us for the next few days. Tomorrow we will be heading to Hebron and Bethlehem in Palestine. Then we will rent a car the next day and travel to Masada, the Dead Sea, Tel Aviv, Nazareth, Sea of Galilee, and the Golan Heights.